Rajendra Kishore Panda

Rajendra Kishore Panda is a major Indian writer, writing in Oriya and, occasionally, in English. He is a recipient of the Sahitya Akademi ( National Academy of Letters ) award, which is of National eminence.

He was born on 24 June 1944 in village Batalaga  in Sambalpur (now Jharsuguda) district, Orissa, India. Thousands of families faced the trauma of displacement when a number of villages (including Batalaga and Rampela, where Rajendra lived in his childhood) were obliterated due to submersion under the waters of Hirakud Dam Project (built between 1948 and 1957, affecting more than 22,000 families in 285 villages ) in 1956-57. It was one of the first large-scale displacements in India as a sequel to a major project. As P. Viegas mentions in The Hirakud Dam Oustees: Thirty Years After ( in E.G. Thukral edited publication, Big Dams, Displaced People: Rivers of Sorrow, Rivers of Change --- Sage Publications, New Delhi, 1992 ), the number of persons displaced by the Hirakud dam was between 1.1 lakh and 1.6 lakh. Rajendra Kishore has felt de-habilitated all through his life.

Rajendra had his early education at Rampela M. E. School, Rampela and Chandrasekhar Zila School, Sambalpur and his collegiate education at Gangadhar Meher College, Sambalpur. He graduated from Utkal University, with Honours in Plolitical Science and Distinction, and had his post-graduate study in Allahabad. He holds a Master's degree in Arts (Political Science) from Allahabad University and a degree of D. Litt ( honoris causa ), conferred by His Excellency the Governor-Chancellor, Sambalpur University, Orissa for his outstanding contribution to literature and learning. He was a member of the Indian Administrative Service, from 14 July 1967 to 30 June 2004. The last office held by him was the position of Member, Board of Revenue, Orissa.

He wrote his first poem when he was a student of Rampela M. E. School. His poems got published in reputed State level journals when he was still in the High School and he received the Nika Apa medal for poetry. During his second year in the College, he received the Prajatantra poetry award and Agami poetry puraskar.

Among his works of poetry are Gouna Devata (Minor Gods), 1975, Anavatar O Anya Anya (Non-Incarnation and Other Poems), 1976, Ghunakshara (Fortuitous Letters), 1977, Satadru Anek (Many Satadrus), 1977, Nija Pain Nanabaya (Lullaby For Self), 1980, Choukathhare Chirakala (Forever At Threshold), 1981, Shailakalpa (Mountainesque), 1982,  Anya (The Other One), 1988, Bahubreehi (The Syntax), 1991, Bodhinabha (The Bodhi-Sky), 1994, Ishakhela (Playing With God), 1999,  Drohavakya (Words of Subversion), 2003, Duja Nari (Second Woman), 2003, Vairagi Bhramar (The Ascetic Bumblebee), Satyottara (Beyond Truth), 2003 and Bahwarambhe (Many Beginnings), 2003. He has also published a meta-novel, Chidabhas (Mindscape), 1999.  Sada Prusthha (The Blank Page), his 'Collected Poems', was published in 2003. His 'Collected Works' was also published as an E-Book in CD format.

He has edited two Web Anthologies : (a) Indian English Poetry and (b) Indian Poetry in English Translation. He also edits The Cogitocrat as a web-journal. Two of his books have been translated into English. Three of his works are available in the internet.

He participated in a large number of academic and literary meets including the Kavi Bharati ( Triennale of Indian poets) organised by Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal in 1987. He has been associated with several learned bodies and literary organisations.

Some of the awards and honours he has received are as follows : D. Litt degree for contribution to literature and learning ( Sambalpur University 2004), Sahitya Bharati Samman for Literature (Gangadhar Rath Foundation, 2004-05), Sochi Rautroy Samman for Literature ( Bhubaneswar Book Fair, 2005 ), Bishuva Samman for Literature (Prajatantra Prachar Samiti, 2004), Bharat Chandra Nayak Memorial Literary Award (Sambalpur University 2001), Sarala Award for Literature ( [Refused], IMFA Charitable Trust's Sarala Puraskar Committee, 1995), Jhankar Poetry Award (Prajatantra Prachar Samiti 1994), Governor's Plaque of Honour (Orissa State Council of Culture for1993), Jibanaranga Felicitation for Poetry (Jibanaranga Journal 1991), Literary Award of Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad, Kolkata (1989), National Award for contribution to Oriya literature by Sahitya Akademi ( National Academy of Letters,1985), Literary Award of Dharitri Samajvadi Society (1977), Padmacharan Patnaik Poetry Award (Utkal University, 1964). He was the recipient of the prestigious 'Senior Fellowship For Literature' awarded by Government of India, Department of Culture during the period from April 1994 to March 1996.

Rajendra Kishore Panda is a trend-setter in Oriya literature, with a creative vision, wide range and variety, evocative language-use, sublime themes and a humanist philosophy of life. The National Academy of Letters ( Sahitya Akademi ), while conferring its highest literary award on him for the year 1985, hailed his literary work as "an outstanding contribution to contemporary Oriya literature" in general and mentioned about its "new awareness, ethical content and social involvement" in particular.

Links : II Cogitocrat II Indian Poetry Anthology II Indian-English Poetry Anthology II  Bodhinabha II Nijapain Nanabaya II Poems II GoogleSearch II Oriya Poetry-I II Oriya Poetry-II II Anya II
Rajendra Kishore Panda

If the poet had his way, he would like to break open all doors, cages, prisons, zoos and skies. He would open up the sea-shells, the seeds, the labia, the crevices in the rock. He would command the crimson rivers to rush back to the primordial aorta. He would have razed Indraprastha to shards this morning to build it up, brick by brick, in the evening. He would have lured Mohini to feed amrit to all gods, demons and humans, each according to his hunger. Instead, must he speak about poetry, about creativity ? I tend to miss the threads of arguments. Cold logic is anathema to me, moulds I hate. I drop the reins, dismount; My horse gallops away: virile and wild, riderless, directionless, to its ashwamedhas. I discard theories, sermons and commandments. What can I say about poetry? 

Everything has its elements. Earth, water, air and fire must be blended with vyoma. Void is an essential ingredient of art, silence has symbiosis with music and poetry. Maybe, poetry's voyage is towards a state where even silence is silent; but a poet may never reach that stage. And there, in that failure, lies the sweet ache of the creative attempt. The unsaid outweighs the said. Like a rishi falling for the temptress near the peak of penance, the poet goes on splashing words and sounds with silences. His Innisfree remains faraway. To arrive is to die, attainment is finis. 

The formation of man out of the pre-sapiens got under way nearly four million years ago with the appearance of proto-humans, the so-called ape men, and culminated with the emergence of homo sapiens. Since rudimentary cultural activities like tool-making were known to the proto-humans, there was an overlap of well over a million years between the inception of culture and the appearance of man (homo-sapiens). Thus culture was not added on a finished animal, it was rather a central component in the production of that animal itself. 

Endowed with a richer central nervous system, the homo sapiens interacted with culture more and more, manifest in its significant symbols like rituals, myths, art and language. Man needed these to orient, to communicate and to transcend. Viewed against this glacial progression in the past and the unimaginable possibilities in the future, what we call creative literature today seems to be in a fledgeling infancy. 

Man is thus an unfinished animal and he tries to both complete and surpass himself through creativity. A Narcissus at the water's edge, he wishes to blow life into his image by the sheer force of gaze and then to pervade the universe with the cosmic ego. Creativity is latent in every man. It is a matter of degree why some men emerge as poets or artists. 

And yet, a poet cannot sit down and say : today I shall write my saddest lines, tomorrow my sweetest, and the day after my best. The best lines remain unwritten. In the poetic craft, the evocation and the advent may not meet for months. Despite continual ablutions and penance, many of us do not cross even the stage of initiation-rites during a life-time. 

Poetry comes in various ways. It may have a long incubation. It may also come in glimpses : maybe in a visual haze, a truant fragrance, a whiff of whisper, a fleeting memory re-lived in a moment. It keeps on haunting, makes the poet restless. And the seed-lines sprout. Sprigs, foliage, flowers and thorns grow thereafter. Mercifully, the spell is brief. None can endure an endless euphoria: The `aha' experience, as Arthur Koestler calls it, comes with the moment of truth, the flash of illumination, when the myriad bits of the puzzle click into an unprogrammed pattern, acquire a new meaning. Of course, I would not say that a work of art is all revelation; craft has its role in shaping its nooks and niches. 

Man is condemned to meaning. Meaning leads to a maze of interpretations and counter-interpretations. Science does not provide any answer to countless questions. Scientism leads to blind alleys. Between the without and the within, this and not-this, either and or, poetry provides a link language. 

To discover himself, man has to take birth from moment to moment. Creativity adopts its own obsterics. It keeps alive the sense of wonder of the child playful within the poet. To realise himself, man has to discard all "alibis of unfreedom" including the tyranny of knowledge and reason. The creative man is concerned with transcendence. Transcendence need not always have a `before' and an `after'. It may be relational. Transcendence may also be immanent. The `I' in poetry need not necessarily be personal and singular. Even solitude may be a "form of relatedness", the "soul may be a society". 

The poet in action is born and unborn continually. The `now' and 'here' of poetry includes the `before' and `after', `there' and `somewhere', the linear and lateral, the vertical and horizontal, the circular and the irregular. True poetry cannot be dated and dead, cannot be classified into old and modern. It rubs off the artifice of history and geography. Such poetry is always contemporary. Immortality is here and now. Vyasa, Homer, Kalidasa, Sarala Das, Bharati, Kumaran, Lorca, Rabindranath, Neruda and Nirala exist here and now. They are all our contemporaries. Perhaps a single poem is being written, continually in installments, by all the poets in their variegated splendour. 

Poetry involves the choice of `wrong' words, sparking on fortuitous juxtaposition, aroused and charged with tangent powers. Poetcraft breaks the dusty rules of grammar. It seems to distort the language; but, in fact, awakens it, rejuvenates it. The poet's voice suffers from lapsus linguae: a delightful imbalance. It transforms earthly lies into meaningful axioms. 

I have not clung to any fixed form of presentation. Style is often the other name of self-repetition. Each poem is born with its swaddling-clothes. The relativity of the theme governs the tone and manner of presentation. I do not believe that all poetry must be undertonal; Nor should it be all-rhetoric. It may coo or caw or neigh or roar; it all depends on the `animal' inhering it. The tonal variance may not often be needed in mono-thematic poets; they are constant in their singular devotion. In others, the male, the rebel, the ascetic, the child, the lover, the jester alternate from time to time. The nature all around and the life, if lived too the hilt, present limitless possibilities for the themes of poetry. As a poet has said, anything that a poet can effectively lift from its dull bed by force of the imagination becomes his material. Anything. 

We live in a world with no hiding place, death being the only escape-route. The poet true to his mettle cannot but be moved by the human destiny, the human anguish— "the rush of roots and blood", hunger and penury, the exploitation of man by man. "I have been their hand, their axe, their mouth- stomach-genitals." The poet owns responsibility. He knows, poetry cannot conjure up any gross, utilitarian remedies. "I have no wish to change my planet", he muses. He affirms life, retrieves the certitude, espouses an astikya in an area of darkness. He upholds a sense of meliorism. The prayer emanating from the creative human, the awareness arising within, represents the collective will and is not wholly futile. The poet prays for more of milk inside the budding paddy, more of silk within the silkworm, more of fire inside the igneous wood, more of sweetness in sugarcane and in honey, more of wine in the `wine-tree', more of blue, more of moonlight in the sky, more and more of humanism in man. 

What is the future of poetry ? We have not exhausted the limit of the possible in language and silence. Despite the onslaught of the media, the magistracy and the materialism of the present-day world, poetry will continue to bloom and to burst for quite some time. I am least worried by the alleged proliferation of bad verse. It is no small solace to mankind that many still choose to make verse, howsoever bad, in stead of making bombs. Bad verse is in fact a part of the terrain. 

Maybe a time will come, when the poet will not record his thoughts merely in words : with the aid of equipment, works of art may be presented with varying sounds, animated colour, wafting smells and even aspects of touch and temperature, as per the sequences and situations of the theme. It may then be possible for the art-lovers to have a fuller understanding through their auditory, visual, olfactory and tactile senses. Maybe a time will come, when the creative and receptive antennae of humans will be so sensitive that poetry will be communicated instantaneously from mind to mind, without any aid. Until then, let us bear with the interplay of words and silences that the fecundity of the earth-matrix surges up from time to time. *

*This is the acceptance-speech of Rajendra Kishore Panda on the occasion of the conferment of the Sahitya Akademi ( National Academy of Letters ) award for 1985.